How 5 California Colleges Approach Campus Design

Geisel Library at UC San Diego, designed by . Image © Darren Bradley

In this article, originally published in 2 parts on Metropolis Magazine as “Building a University: How 5 Schools Approach Campus Design” (Part 1 & Part 2), Sherin Wing investigates how different Californian universities utilize the design of their campus to express and enable their differing missions.

A school is more than just the sum of its intellectual records. Its legacy is very much tied to a physical place: its campus. More than a mascot or a symbol, the design of a campus and the buildings that form it greatly contribute to a university’s lasting identity.

The key, then, is how a school’s material identity advances its intellectual mission. For example, academic buildings often physically symbolize the type of scholarly exploration and research that takes place therein. Administrative centers, on the other hand, anchor the more idealistic work taking place in the lecture and science wings. At the same time, individual buildings can function collectively as didactic forums for the public, demonstrating such principles as energy and water-use efficiencies. Lastly, the circulation between the buildings themselves is important. Open green space, for instance, can accommodate crowds, lectures, and even protests, providing a counterpoint to the more stately, processional routes that crisscross a campus.

Clearly these are different, and at times conflicting, agendas. How are they ranked and pursued by individual universities? Five campus architects at different California universities reveal how similar factors work in concert to produce very different visions and results. For some the initial plan of a school continues to wield influence over future developments, while in other cases a commitment to architectural movements and types gives rise to an eclectic, flexible approach to campus design.

Find out how these 5 California Universities approach their architecture after the break

UCSD: A Built History of Modernism

Geisel Library © Darren Bradley

At just a little over 50 years old, the University of California San Diego is one of the younger college campuses in the United States, but despite this it is one of the most architecturally fascinating universities around. In the official UCSD campus guide, Dirk Sutro emphasizes that “UCSD does not have a single example of the historical-revival styles prevalent at other University of California campuses… and at San Diego’s two other major universities”. The history of UCSD architecture is one of ambition, which has made the a display case of modernism in all of its forms from the last half a century.

Thanks to photographer Darren Bradley, we can now share this history and a selection of the exciting structures it has produced.

Find out more about the UCSD campus after the break